news

The hidden life of Dolores O'Riordan.

At 9am on Monday, Irish singer Dolores O’Riordan was found dead at the London Hilton on Park Lane after visiting the city for a recording session.

A statement released by her publicist said: “Irish and international singer Dolores O’Riordan has died suddenly in London today.

“Family members are devastated to hear the breaking news and have requested privacy at this very difficult time.”

The singer, from Limerick, enjoyed success with the multi-platinum band in the 1990s with hit singles including Linger and Zombie, and went on to sell 40 million albums.

But behind the bright lights of international stardom and underneath the pedestal that came with being a rock star, the life of Dolores O’Riordan was complex and fiercely private.

O’Riordan, the youngest of seven children, was born to a farm labourer and caterer in Ireland, and began writing songs when she was 12 years old. Three years before she came into the world, her father, Terence, had a motorbike accident that left him brain-damaged and unable to work.

In a 2001 interview with The Telegraph, O’Riordan said she had “the most cosy loving childhood, all huddled up together.”

It was only 12 years later, when a then 43-year-old O’Riordan told LIFE magazine her early life was marred by horrific sexual abuse by someone, she said, she trusted.

“I was only a kid,” the musician — who leaves behind three children, Taylor, 20, Mollie, 16, and Dakota, 12 — told the outlet. “It gets hard as well when you have daughters because you get flashbacks when you’re with them and when you are watching them. You wonder, ‘How can anyone get satisfaction in any way, you know?’”

She went on to detail exactly how much it hindered her self-esteem, inflating her sense of self-loathing.

Dolores O'Riordan in 2016. Image: Getty.

"That's what happens. You think it is your own fault. I buried it. It is what you do initially. You bury it because you are ashamed of it. You think: 'Oh my God. How horrible and disgusting I am.' You have this terrible self-loathing. And then I got famous when I was 18 and my career took over. It was even harder then. So then I developed the anorexia."

ADVERTISEMENT

Later, she would tell Barry Egan that it took many years for her to understand the link between her eating disorder and the trauma of her childhood.

"When I Googled anorexia and studied it, I found out it was a common pathology that develops later on in life. So I was putting on this charade, this perfect face. I had anorexia, then depression, a breakdown."

But at the heights of her success, O'Riordan struggled to navigate the onslaught of scrutiny. Tony Clayton-Lea wrote for the Irish Times this week that "success rested uneasily on her slim shoulders."

Within four years of joining the band, later renamed The Cranberries, O'Riordan was thrust into public life, her struggle with attention evident in a 1995 piece in the LA Times, that read as follows: "Even staunch followers were less than dazzled by the band's early live shows. O'Riordan refused to face the audience, standing sideways while she sang."

Of course, many of her major, life-altering issues came later.

For the week in news and current affairs, listen to Mamamia Out Loud. Post continues after audio...

When her father died on November 25, 2011, at home in Limerick, O'Riordan knew a trip home for his funeral would mean she would likely have to face her abuser once again.

"I had nightmares for a year before my father's death about meeting him," she said in November 2013, according to The Belfast Telegraph. These fears were realised when the man who abused her "came over and cried and said: 'Sorry'."

In a 2012 interview with the Irish Times, the late singer said the intersection between youth and fame can be toxic.

“Anyone who gets famous so quickly and so young, you’re bound to be a bit of a casualty in some fashion. You go through life, and then you realise you only live once, and that there are some things you might have lost or given away when you were young, so you go back to find them.”

And in 2013, she told Egan of her struggle with alcohol and depression, saying "I am pretty good but sometimes I hit the bottle".

A quick Google search of Dolores O'Riordan brings up as many references to her music as it does to her love of being a mother. On more than one occasion, she credited her children for saving her life - keeping her sane and giving her purpose, reason and meaning.

As the years went on, however, her troubles stalked her like an unrelenting shadow, her name occasionally finding itself in the headlines.

In 2014, she was arrested for an alleged assault on an Aer Lingus flight attendant and allegedly headbutting and spitting in the face of a guard, the same year she split from her husband of 20 years, Don Burton. A year later, she revealed she had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

At the age of 42, she said in an interview if she made it to 50, she'd be happy. On Monday, she died aged 46.

"I'll always be a bit of a train wreck," she told Barry Egan in 2014. "Nobody's perfect. Those people who pretend they are perfect aren't perfect."

FROM OUR NETWORK
00:00 / ???